Hewlett Packard Enterprise has been leading on tough environmental and social challenges, from the circular economy to human trafficking.
Editor's Note: This story is part of an editorial series featuring companies on CR Magazine's 20th annual 100 Best Corporate Citizens ranking, which recognizes outstanding environmental, social, and governance (ESG) disclosure and performance among the Russell 1,000 Index. You can follow the series here.
You may not hear much about this legacy company, but the offshoot of a Silicon Valley titan has been leading on tough environmental and social challenges from the circular economy to human trafficking.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) split from the legacy company Hewlett-Packard in 2015 and incorporated most of the business-to-business product portfolios of the well-known parent company. The San Jose-based company now has two primary divisions—Enterprise, which focuses on servers, storage, networking and consulting—and Financial Services.
Despite the fact that HPE is not a consumer-facing company and faces less reputational risk than many of its peers in the global technology sector, the company has been a leader on several fronts when it comes to sustainability, responsible supply chains and innovation for the greater good.
As a technology company, HPE has ample opportunity to apply the lessons and knowledge that drive its business relationships toward social good. The reason the company has emerged as a reliable corporate sustainability leader is because it has shown a willingness to go far beyond its responsibility to investors and look at how it can help address some of the world’s biggest challenges.
For example, look what the company has done in order to take on food insecurity. In 2018, HPE announced a partnership with the World Economic Forum (WEF) with the goal of solving global hunger by 2030. “HPE and the Forum are like-minded in the belief that by applying emerging technologies we can positively address the agricultural productivity crisis," HPE’s chief technology officer, Mark Potter, wrote in a blog post.
The project aims to bring business know-how, technological innovation and knowledge together through an open collaborative process, focused on addressing this systemic global challenge. As a first step, HPE and the WEF are working with Purdue University's College of Agriculture, which in recent years has focused on food security and the optimization of ag-tech worldwide. Purdue has continued to work closely with HPE in order to boost disruptive technologies, such as IoT sensors, that can help make digital and precision agriculture a reality.
Another area of interest for HPE is the circular economy, which refers to the need to ensure that the sourcing, manufacturing and distribution of products create no waste and can be quickly and sustainably returned to the economy. As more awareness grows of the massive impacts of waste—including the scourge of oceanic plastic pollution—HPE has been working to improve the energy efficiency, materials usage and recyclability design of various products, including those of its customers.
Furthermore, HPE has taken leadership on the ongoing problems resulting from modern slavery. Despite the great economic progress that the world as a whole has made on human trafficking over the past several decades, forced and child labor is still rampant across many companies’ supply chains. The figures are stark—the United Nations estimates that 168 million children are victims of child labor across the world, while the Global Slavery Index estimates that 45.8 million people are enslaved. Many companies are unaware or unable to ascertain if slavery exists in their supply chains.
To that end, HPE says it has been proactive at pushing for better standards throughout supply chains. For instance, the company’s foreign migrant worker standard includes an ‘employer pays’ principle, so that no that no worker should have to pay outrageous recruiter fees in order to find a job. This addresses the frequent reliance on job brokers, who often traffic victims into forced labor through large debts that are often impossible to pay off. This is just the start, as HPE is looking at opportunities to utilize tools including blockchain, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to better identify and address sources of modern slavery along complex supply chains.
Therein is just the start of the many areas on which HPE is working, which also include healthcare access, intelligent industrial plants and women’s empowerment. This $31 billion company is setting the standard on what it takes to make a positive impact in the world.
Image credit: Hewlett Packard Enterprise/Facebook
Nithin Coca is a freelance journalist who focuses on environmental, social, and economic issues around the world, with specific expertise in Southeast Asia.